Notes for "Pipeline Support for Feature Branches in 'Destiny'" GDC2019

Reading time: 3 minutes

TLDW Summary:

How Bungie created an ecosystem of tools and workflows to allow small teams to quickly iterate on changes without worrying about breaking and blocking other teams.


  • Game Data Merging
  • Version Control System
  • Branch Integration


  • Each P4 branch is about 4 Tb
  • Up to 350 content creators, designers, and engineers working in one branch
  • They use a pre-commit build pipeline - “the Gauntlet”
  • They pick stability over iteration speed
    • slide: initial Destiny 2 challenges
  • Had technical limitations of just simply adding more feature branches
    • Not supported by tools
    • More pressure on integration
    • More pressure on build pipeline
    • Couldn’t merge game data
  • Definition “Feature Branch” - Branch created for teams to work in without interfering with the stability of the main branch
  • Definition “Small Team” - group of cross-discipline developer working collaboratively on shared features (strike teams? )
  • The development team was in an environment that would not allow risky feature prototype and development
    • Long pre-commit build pipeline throughput
    • Thurow QA testing
    • Fear of creating blockers
  • Vision
    • slide: auto-integration
    • slide: small team development vision
    • QA had the option to use stabilization branch to shield from the auto integrations that were happening
  • Had 3 main challenges:
    • slide: achieving the development vision
      • Focused on semantically merge content to make the lives of content creators easier
      • Focused on making a simple as possible to keep branches in-sync and stable (management tools)
  • Developers became accustomed to workflow build around having multiple branches per workspace
    • Because of the release cycles (having multiple features in progress)
    • Expected to have immediate access to things that are mapped in the workspace
  • Source DCC assets in the same location as the game data
    • This made for build branches
  • Moving to a streamed depot was a risk that the dev team didn’t want to take
    • Compromise by adapting the current system to behave like Streams
    • Had plans to move to Streams for next project

Scaling the Infrastructure

  • Needed to implement Centralized Branch Authority
    • Which was available as part P4 Stream
    • Used the build farm DB to be the Branch Authority
  • Needed to implement a way to make the branches available on the build farm machines
  • Asset pipeline changes
  • To setup, branch used a lazy copy of that branch
    • The branch was 4 Tb
    • On the backend use deduplication to not store the same data

Implementing Content Merging

  • Propper game data merging
    • Needs to know the semantics of the data
    • Used C# for the content merge tool (some screenshots at min 40)
      • slide: content merge tool
    • Tracked auto-resolve\ conflict ratio
    • Used TDD and recorded mergers that produced conflict to analyze
  • at min 31 notes on how to implement merging of game data
  • Were able to reach 80% auto-conflict resolution rate

Flow of changes

  • Created custom tool “Team Sync” to view of a users branch state
  • Had a special process for automatically integrating into the main branch
    • Via a build farm worker
    • Had a special local conflict resolution workflow (when conflicts happened during an integration)
    • After conflict resolution, automated testing would occur
      • If something was broken, the team had the ability to login to a remote worker and fix the issue
        • The worker would have all the dev tools ready
  • All in all, Pete says that this was a great investment for the dev team

These notes are just the main ideas of the talk. They don’t contain anecdotes and examples. If you want to learn more, I would advise watching the talk on the GDC Vault.

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I took these notes as part of our little “Book Club” for GDC Vault Videos The Toolsmiths #vault club

Pete Kugler is a member of the Toolsmiths community. The Toolsmiths are a community of Game Tool Developers that are passionate about improving the way people make games.

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